I'm writing this in mid-November. I'm wearing my new-to-me vintage kimono, drinking chai tea and feeling the chilly edge of fall finally work its way into DC. A part of me wants to hide from this impending cold. Another part of me wants to make it a cup of tea and allow it to snuggle close as I read at night, a hot water bottle at my feet.
A few days ago I was hiking through the dry hills of Topanga Caynon in short sleeves, the sun baking in through my skin as I overlooked the vastness of the Pacific.
I was there to participate in an informal yet mightly-valueable ladies entreprenuer weekend. We called it a skillshare because we all wanted to learn a few new tricks from each other. However, we quickly realized that our purpose in gathering was more important than learning to hire a new assistant or invoice correctly.
Although the six of us come from different backgrounds and have diverse dreams, we saw that we needed to learn many of the same things.
First, we had to acknowledge that we are doing ok, like really really pretty good, at running our businesses. Sure, we all need to grow and make little tweaks but overall, we're doing work we love and helping other people in the process. We are paying our bills and can even afford a bit extra for luxury items like fancy local honey.
Second, we needed to share our workload out loud to other people. When it was my turn, I listed all that I do, everyone I work with, projects I want to get to on my dream big list. It was from that place that I could begin to get the feedback that maaaaaybe my plate is on the full side.
Third, we needed to admit that we were scared. That came through for all of us. But of what?
We are scared of feeling out of control as our business grows to the next stage. We are scared of not making enough money. We are scared of taking risks and having everything we've built fall apart. We are scared to lose members of our family. We are scared of losing our sense of privacy as we share in our work. We are scared of not writing the books that are there in hearts, elusive but still vocal. We are scared that we are impostors. We are scared to be tied down and scared to be too free.
Mostly, we are scared of slowing down. That was the central theme no matter who was sharing. Our feedback went a bit like this:
"You'll figure out that issue and that issue. But what about slowing down? Can you take more time for you? What art do you really want to be making? What are you doing that isn't for your business?"
After hearing this slowing down idea again and again, we started to get it as a group. Of course we were going to be successful (we are successful now actually!), but what does success really mean?
And what will that success look like in five years if we don't stop rushing around? Will we even be able to enjoy it? What will it do to our health? And what exactly are we working so hard to prove?
To me, this leads back to self care. I love this self care work because the answer always leads right back to me--to the center of my chest and the bottom of my belly.
Real self care is about resting in the pause long enough to listen to what my insides are saying. They refuse to shout but have very solid and important opinions.
Real self care is about dealing with the emotions that I use my busy-ness to cover up. As I pause and reflect, I feel things. I feel happy things, anxious things, desperately sad things. They are all important to feel and not so important that I need to cling to them.
Emotions come and go and it's so much easier to feel them then to organize my whole life around not feeling them.
In end, it was a powerful weekend because I was held accountable to myself by these awesome women. They reflected to me that I can take time to slow down and listen. They reminded me that I can be writing little things just for me. These writings don't have to be good but I have to make time every day. Also that I need to be coached as much I as I coach. I need group support. I need to be consistently inspired. I need to open my head and heart to the reality of writing a book. I need a full day off every week (maybe even two consecutive ones!).
These are simple things yet powerful actions. They wrap themselves around that central theme of slowing down, making space, and not being in any kind of rush to fill that space with clutter. Clutter may help me feel safe but ultimately it's a distraction.
Life feels too short and too precious to be distracted for too long. This is always true but right now it feels like gospel to me, especially when there is so much work to be done and when the doing of it is so life-giving and when the ocean smiles back up at six sweaty ladies staring down at her, grinning wildly at us like praise for us doing our true work in this world.